Rated: R for some sexuality/nudity. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: April 12, 2013 Released by: Magnolia Pictures
Not that long after his richly metaphysical The Tree of Life, director/writer Terence Malick works in elements of love, faith and human connection in his latest not too protracted, dreamily meditative To The Wonder. Even ethical views are raised when it comes notions of sex and consummated union in the eyes of God.
Starring Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Rachel McAdams, and Javier Bardem there is a diaphanous, unsettled, even overriding wistfulness that just doesn't coalesce with transcendental temerity and cohesion like they did in the similarly elliptical Brad Pitt/Jessica Chastain/Sean Penn starrer.
This swirling, very spare in its line readings accompanied by impressionistic voice-overs, but contemplative drama revolves around the ramifications of a whirlwind France-based romance between American construction engineer Neil (Affleck of Oscar-winning Argo) and French-speaking single mother Marina (Kurylenko of Quantum of Solace and upcoming Oblivion with Tom Cruise).
Mariana, with sweet 10-year-old daughter Tatiana (Tatiana Chiline), are okay with relocating with Neil to a bucolic section of Oklahoma, but adapting to a new life and culture overcome their new family unit. So, after Marina's visa expires it's back across the Atlantic for mother and daughter. That allows Neil to reignite the relationship with a childhood sweetheart, Jane (McAdams). Even as things get more intimate for them, Jane realizes that Neil still hasn't gotten over the lovely European.
Within Neil's sketchy milieu is a spiritual arc for Fr. Quintana (Bardem, is different from his fey, penetrating Silva in the most recent 007 opus Skyfall) in a struggle to find the kind of meaningful grace he can seemingly express to others. The local priest has offered counsel to Marina while Jane has developed a spiritual life after losing her daughter. Dashes of ideas provide plot points suggestive to characters that never blossom in the way as crucial as ideas and feelings need to be represented by the biblical, philosophical musings.
The narration doesn't satisfying resonate in light of the lack of dialogue and transitional scenes of heartache maybe are more pallid like an albatross than resonating with the emotional charge that the filmmaking desires to deeply involve with its discerning audience. As for the characters it doesn't help that Jane doesn't have the kind of screen time that an actress like McAdams (even good in an indirect way in Midnight In Paris) could do with more emphasis on narrative drive. Affleck and Bardem can't sense the presence of their characters, like the former handling the analysis of toxic waste sites and the latter coming to terms with his faith, perhaps too much at the mercy of the obtuse thematic inclinations; you wouldn't see Affleck write a role this opaque for himself as evidenced from his more recent projects he's directed.
The directorial flourishes does seem to favor Kurylenko considering her ebullient, flighty ways around the camera even when a gloomier aura takes hold of Marina. So, To The Wonder can truly be appreciated from the roaming, gliding and painterly elegance of ace lenser Emmanuel Lubezki. An effortlessly projection of the images from the sun-drenched plains to rainy Paris have more to them on the screen than what is weighed down to lose traction from what was committed to a deeper vivid poignancy to proselytizing.
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